“In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8
Sometimes I run into a strange phenomenon among people who profess to believe in Jesus as their Savior. Rather than feeling like they are filled with the joy of their salvation, they are unsure of the relationship between them and God. A little humility is fine, but these people aren’t sure if they are worthy of being saved, they’re not sure that they are fully forgiven and they live their Christian lives like they belong in the dog house for past sins or present attitudes.
I remember when I struggled with some of these same feelings. I got saved secretly, if you will, never revealing that I had switched sides from the Class Atheist to a believer in Jesus. Then after four years of messing up my own life, I finally learned about making Jesus the Lord or boss of my life and I learned of the power of the Holy Spirit to help me live as a follower of Jesus ought to live.
After I rededicated my life, I was thrilled to be back in God’s good graces, but I was sure that my actions since salvation had disqualified me from “full status” as a Christian. I figured that there were Grade A Christians or First Class Christians: those people who had followed Jesus all their lives and deserved to get a good ministry in the church, those people who deserved a good spouse who hadn’t slept around or done a bunch of drugs like I had, etc.
But I knew what I had done, especially after I had trusted in Jesus. I knew how I had failed to live for God. Therefore, I just KNEW that I would be a Grade B or Second Class Christian the rest of my life. And that was fine with me. I was good with that. I mean, I still trusted in Jesus for my salvation. I knew my sins were forgiven and I was going to heaven. But I also believed that the rest of my life here on earth, I’d be making up for all that I had done to bring disgrace to the name of Jesus. Ever felt that way?
Or, maybe, you look into your heart of hearts, that spot where no one else but God sees and you see a darkness, a coldness, a hardness, a pettiness at times. You know that’s not how one should be if one is a follower of Jesus. Therefore, privately, you are sure that God is disappointed with you. God is not going to trust you with His best – in life and in His kingdom. Ever felt like that?
Well, I have good news for you today! Really good news! That’s not how God works! That’s not how salvation works! And that is NOT how God’s kingdom works! Salvation is Salvation, not probation.
Look at these words from Ephesians 1:3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who HAS BLESSED US IN THE HEAVENLY REALMS WITH EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST JESUS!!”
This is good news. Every believer has already been blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing. They are stored up for us in the heavenly realms where no one can touch them! These are permanent blessings.
Last week we looked at one of these blessings: God’s Amazing Grace! But the passage above tells us of two more permanent spiritual blessings – redemption through Jesus’ blood and the forgiveness of sins.
Once again, the terms Paul used in His letter were household terms for the people living in Ephesus. They knew that redemption or being redeemed was to be purchased out of slavery. Let’s step into their way of life to more fully grasp what would happen in their time.
Imagine if you will that you have hit a financial crisis, a crippling financial crisis. (Not so hard to imagine with the recent events lately.) In this crisis, your debts mounted up and up, all your assets were wiped out, and you felt like the world was closing in on you. Sure enough, you are seized as payment for your debts. (That was common in their day.) You are removed from your family. You are put in chains, unable to escape. You are then dragged to the city square for the weekly auction and put up for sale to pay off the debts!
The tension builds as you wait your turn to stand on the auction block. You wonder what kind of person might buy you. Will he be a harsh master who will work you without letting up? One who beats you at the slightest provocation? A master who abuses you and neglects your physical needs for food or shelter from the cold and heat? Your stomach turns as your name is called and you walk up to the platform.
You drop your head in shame, not daring to look up lest you see friends and neighbors in the crowd. Suddenly, you hear a familiar voice in the crowd shout out, “Stop! Stop! That person is not for sale! See, I have full payment for these debts!” A murmur rushes through the crowd as people turn to see who is shouting this out. You look and your near kinsman, a first cousin, steps up with the cash to pay your debts and set you free! Hallelujah! Relief sweeps over you! You are free!
This is what Jesus did! This is why He became human, so that he could be a near kinsman and set us free! He purchased us with His blood. In Christ we have redemption through His blood. This redemption is one of the permanent spiritual blessings that God the Father has given us through the blood of Jesus. We are delivered from the slave market of sin, self and death
Isn’t this fantastic!? We are free! Free from our own sin, free from sin’s penalty. But we are also free from slavery to living for self! What? Someone might be shocked at that thought. I mean, most of kind of like our self. Love it actually. But Jesus said, “He who finds himself shall lose himself, but he who loses himself for My sake shall find himself.” (Matthew 10:39 NIV) We are urged over and over to die to self, to give up self, and we learn in the Bible that self can be one of our biggest obstacles to following God. (Luke 9:23)
Remember what we learned from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, when we talked about being God’s saints, those set apart to live for His purposes and no longer for any other purpose?
“Don’t you know? You are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you and whom you have from God. You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
You are no longer your own, you belong to Jesus, fully belong to Jesus! There’s no “barely saved” for a believer. Rather a believer is fully redeemed, totally set free from one’s bondage to sin, self and death, never to be the same again.
As believers we are to live by the truths of God’s Word and not our feelings. We need to break free from the way people treat each other to really grasp how God is willing to treat us in Jesus Christ. It is unbelievable what Jesus has done for us in our salvation. It is hard to grasp the enormity, the hugeness of it all. But, one concept at a time, we can rewrite the understanding of our heart and begin to celebrate God’s kindness more and more each day. Take some time to chew on Grace and Redemption, like a cow chewing its cud. It may take a while, but soon these concepts will nourish you from the inside out!